It is a sad fact that not everyone around the world has the same chance of good health. The principle of the ‘right to health’ argues that everyone has a right to good health regardless of their gender, ethnicity, social class, sexuality or their place or way of living.
The United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women have put the right to health into international law. Some countries, such as Brazil, have also included provisions for the right to health in their constitution, but many have not.
Not just about law
Realising the right to good health is more than just enacting laws.
- It is about ensuring everyone has access to good health facilities with trained staff and essential medicines.
- It is about a woman’s right to decide whether or not to have sex, or use contraception.
- It is about access to the fundamental building blocks that are needed to support good health, such as clean water and sanitation, good nutrition, housing, and education.
In many countries these ‘health determinants’, and the right to good health exist for some but not others. Those with less power or status – the poor and the marginalised – are always the ones left behind.
Health Poverty Action says:
- We believe that everyone has a right to good health.
- International, national and local action is needed to address the inequalities, and cultural and social barriers, that marginalised groups face in achieving their right to health.
- The poorest and most vulnerable people in the world need the most support. They are the people with no one else to help them. Indigenous communities, refugees, migrants, those living with physical and mental disabilities and women and girls (in many parts of the world), must be a particular focus for action.